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Kvas on the Streets of Berdichev

By Yael Shamir-Driver, May 2001

Part 2

 

The Oldest Jewish Cemeteries:

Further west along Berdichev’s main street we arrived at what were once the two oldest Jewish Cemeteries in town.  As in many other former Jewish towns, the whole area was dug up and converted into a park named after Ukraine’s national poet and writer Taras Shavchenko.

 

Shavchenko Park was previously two cemeteries

The old cemeteries, today Shavchenko Park

 

At one corner of the park there is a single stone surrounded by railings – a symbolic reminder to a curious visitor of the former use of this area. If there was any inscription on this stone, it is no longer discernible by the naked eye. Hence, even a curious visitor would have a hard time working out the meaning of this stone.

 

Solitary grave at Shavenko Park

The lonely grave

 

The Search for One of the Many Old Synagogues:

From Shavchenko Park we drove, looking for an old synagogue in the area of the ‘Bazaar’ [market square].This is the area south of Shalom Aleichem Street, in the direction of the Gnilopiatka River, on the banks of which Berdichev is situated.

We did not find the building so at a nearby police station we stopped to ask. We were advised to look for a very old couple living down the road. This couple, we were told, know all there is to know about old Berdichev. We strolled on looking for this couple and it was not long before we spotted an elderly man carrying two buckets of water. We stopped him and after a couple of seconds ascertain that he was indeed “our man”. We offered to help him with the water only to hear him reply with a smile – “I am only 82; I should still be able to carry these buckets”. He carried the buckets to a next door small wooden structure, straight out of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, and called his wife.

 

The old couple in Berdichev

The old couple from Berdichev. Their residence had formerly been a Jewish home.

At first they were reticent to talk to strangers, but after a few seconds, the ice broke. We learned that the couple had bought their residense 70 years ago. It was a “house” in the midst of a totally Jewish area. The “house” did not change since they bought it. From our short encounter we learned that the wife went to school with Jewish girls and still recalled some Yiddish and that the synagogue which we were searching for, was long gone! We also got the message that life in Berdichev today is no “milk and honey”.

An Old Flour Mill that has Disappeared:

We looked for the old Jewish flour mill, which used to stand on the northern bank of the river at the western edge of the town, adjacent to what is now the bridge leading to Zagrabellia. There was no trace of this mill and we were later advised that it had disappeared many years ago.

Part 1 | Part2 | Part 3

  • Last Modified: 02-20-2012
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